When I graduated from Boston University in 2014, I was given the advice to move back home and start my career at a local newspaper. After four years in Boston, the idea of returning to small town Connecticut seemed neither appealing nor beneficial.
Within my first week as a news reporter for The Observer, I understood why starting small was such great advice, and why so many suggested I report for a town like Southington.
Here in Southington, I became part of a community filled with individuals who are actively engaged in their town, and who rely on the press to follow the stories that will affect them and their neighbors. With thousands of readers who held me accountable for each and every word I wrote—with many corrective calls, emails, and comments—I was able to recognize the influence, impact, and repercussions of my work.
I spent the last 18 months getting to know the concerns of Southington readers, digging deep into issues of law, policy, and ethics, and telling the stories of individuals making an impact in the community. I found myself investigating issues I knew nothing about—like solar energy, the sewer system, and economic development. I learned to research, ask questions, and follow stories as they developed over time.
I sat in court rooms, in classrooms, and in dozens of Town Council meetings, learning about ethical codes, budget strategies, and technology initiatives for students. I photographed babies and toddlers learning motor skills through music, children from across the state crossing the finish line at their first triathlon, brave volunteers plunging into icy waters, and dedicated festival goers in the long line for apple fritters.
During my time at The Observer, Monday and Tuesday deadlines meant long nights at the office, finishing up my coverage of recent events and developing stories in Southington, Plainville, and Bristol.
This Monday, I found myself in a very different setting. I sat down in a classroom and began taking notes as a professor lectured about the elements of journalism. Rather than writing, I was learning about different writing styles. Instead of conducting interviews, I was reading tips for developing strong questions.
It was my first day of graduate school at American University.
I moved to Washington, D.C., last week to pursue a master’s degree in journalism and public affairs at AU. For the next year, I will be sharpening my multimedia skills as I specialize in investigative reporting, a passion that I got a taste for at The Observer.
While I am excited for this new adventure, my experience as your news reporter has been invaluable, and has taught me more than I will ever learn in a classroom. Thank you all for taking my many phone calls, and for sharing your stories and your town with me.
Thank you to my editor, John Goralski, and the newsroom staff, for teaching me, correcting me, and guiding me through the first step in my career. I will see you all in October for apple fritters.
Taylor Hartz was a staff writer for the Southington Observer.